There is deep concern about disinformation, with nearly half of the public believing it cannot find objective content on Covid. At the same time, there is increasing politicization of media, with higher ratings going to those outlets that opt for controversy over facts. Given that brands and companies are increasingly being drawn into the fight, what can PR teams do to fight back?

At Edelman, our Data & Intelligence team are able to identify an audience that has been exposed to fake news and target them specifically with content that is accurate and credibly sourced. Our research teams can identify the fake news coverage and misleading social media content. Our audience intelligence teams then leverage unique data partners to identify who consumed the fake coverage. Once an audience is built, our editorial and creative teams tailor the message based on a person’s preferences (one piece on sustainability, another on human interest, etc.). Finally, our paid media teams ensure the content reaches the specific audience across channels. This process moves with the sophistication, precision, efficiency and speed of the most modern automobile assembly line. Turnaround time is counted in hours, not days, because in this environment, speed, specificity and specialization matter more than ever.

The jujitsu move is that those who are searching for certain terms will find both sides of the story, not just the fake news, and those that were initially exposed to the fake news will see the other side of the story. And we generate debate and discussion instead of accepting another black eye by putting our heads down and hoping for the news cycle to change.

The cost of this is compelling because it is highly scalable. For a recent client, the total expenditure for the targeted segmentation response was $50,000 for a three week flight. This presumes the existence of a content library, which can be re-purposed and quickly re-deployed.  

Our goal at Edelman is to build trusted relationships between a broad spectrum of stakeholders, not just customers, but also, investors, employees, policy makers and influencers.  At the center of this value proposition lies our ability to empathize with people, their emotions, motivations, needs, personalities and aspirations as they express them in the complex physical and digital world that surrounds them. Data is the link to empathy between people and business. 

Mindful of the increased regulatory oversight of GDPR and CCPA on third party data, this will be the PR industry’s answer to targeting based on permission, trust, empathy and quality of offer.

Richard Edelman is CEO.